30 June 2011 | hitchcockthelegend
What's the secret of Mark's Priory?
The Case of the Frightened Lady is directed by George King and based on a play by Edgar Wallace. Edward Dryhurst adapts to screenplay, Jack Beaver scores the music and Hone Glendinning is the photographer. It stars Helen Haye, Marius Goring, Penelope Dudley-Ward, Patrick Barr, Felix Aylmer, Ronald Shiner and George Merritt.
Mark's Priory: The ancestral English family home of the Lebanon's. Mark's Priory: Home to secrets, suspicion and possibly a psychotic murderer.
One of a number of old British films newly discovered for DVD release, George king's movie is a mystery thriller in the classic "old dark house" mode. Edgar Wallace's play had already been adapted to the screen in a 1932 film version directed by T. Hayes Hunter, with two subsequent television versions appearing in 1938 and 1983. Clearly it's a source story that has proved popular with producers. Although creaking with its undoubted stage bound origins, film delivers the goods for those willing to accept that the first half is driven by dialogue and character development. After an initial "shriek" opening, the picture settles into a literary stride where there's no real sense of impending menace or creepy atmospherics: in fact a good portion in this quarter is jovial as plot takes in major characters at a community dance party. However, conversations are relevant and it seasons the ingredients for the stew about to be cooked.
Once back at Mark's Priory, we at last reach the realms of mystery/thriller land and the hunt and guess who begins. Characters are strong for the formula; a head of the family who appears to be hiding something, a doctor who may have an iffy past, shifty footmen servants and naturally a pretty girl catching the eye of some debonair suitor. Throw in some shadowy photography by Glendinning and a terrific piano led score by Beaver, and fans of films of this ilk have much to enjoy; and thankfully the big "reveal" of the story is not too shabby either. Cast are well tuned for the material, particularly Goring, Aylmer (isn't he always?), Shiner and Merritt, the latter two of which making a wonderful double act as the intrepid coppers investigating the dastardly goings on. While keep an eye out for a young Torin Thatcher impacting with a character marker for future roles to come. 7/10